This hasn’t been a typical May.
Abilene has had 10 days of 100-degree heat this month as of Wednesday, when it was surpassed 100 again, including two as hot as 107. It’s forecasted to be 100 or hotter through Saturday, including 108 on Thursday and Friday.
Not exactly prime weather to be playing football, yet Abilene High, Cooper and Wylie both wrap up spring ball this week.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and you look and we’re breaking records every day that were set back in 1900 or 1975 or whatever,” AHS coach Mike Fullen said. “It’s actually been hotter than it’s ever been.”
The heat has forced coaches to alter their spring workouts a bit. All three schools have done some of their spring work during the regular in-school athletic period and adjusted their workouts to allow for more water breaks. Though athletes always have access to water at any time.
“We’ve done what we can as far as having more breaks and things like that,” Cooper coach Aaron Roan said. “Just being smart. But it has been more challenging. Normally, we’re worried about thunderstorms and not 105 degrees. We’ve still been able to get our work in.”
Getting more work done during the athletic period to reduce practice time after school when it’s hotter is a setup Wylie has been using the last few years anyway. It just worked out to be boon this season.
“We modify our stuff anyway,” Wylie coach Clay Martin said. “We realistically only go an hour a day in pads. We get our other work done in shorts and T-shirts during the (athletic) period. When you’re only out there for an hour, we’ve been able to survive it pretty easy.”
The Bulldogs began participating in spring ball when the school made the jump to Class 5A five years ago. Only Class 5A and 6A schools can conduct spring football and no more than 18 practices.
Wylie, which doesn’t have a spring game, wrapped up practice with a scrimmage early Wednesday morning. It was their second straight morning practice – something Martin did to accommodate the players on the team who also play baseball.
The baseball team opens its region quarterfinal series against El Paso Del Valle on Thursday in Monahans.
“I think we’ve had a great spring,” Martin said. “We got a lot of things accomplished that we wanted to accomplish going into spring training. We had some guys step up and have a great spring.”
Wylie will play in District 2-5A Division II this fall with Amarillo Palo Duro, Lubbock High, Plainview, Wichita Falls Rider and Southtown rival Cooper. It’s the first time the Bulldogs and Cougars will meet as district football rivals.
Speaking of Coogs …
The Coogs wrap up spring ball Thursday with practice at the high school field, instead of the annual spring game at Shotwell Stadium.
With temperatures expected to hit 108, Roan thought it would be safer to keep fans, cheerleaders and all that usually goes with a spring game out of Shotwell Stadium.
“With some of the forecasted temperatures, I felt like we can get in what we need to and get a practice in without having everybody out there,” Roan said. “Just being smart, making progress. I think taking care of our kids and everyone involved in what we do is the best thing to do.”
AHS, which finishes spring ball Friday, is taking the same approach and conducting its final workout at the school’s practice field.
Fullen said it just makes more sense. He doesn’t want to schedule buses and shuttle players to and from Shotwell, when it’s possible he might have to shorten practice because of the heat.
The Eagles still will finish spring workouts with a scrimmage, starting at 4 p.m. Friday. They haven’t had a typical spring game in years anyway. They practice, like all of their workouts, is open to the public.
AHS, like Wylie, will go through big changes this fall. The Eagles will compete in District 2-5A Division I with three Amarillo schools (Caprock, Tascosa and Amarillo High) and three Lubbock-area schools (Coronado, Monterey and Lubbock-Cooper).
Until this fall, the Eagles have always participated in the state’s largest class.
Another successful spring
Both Fullen and Roan have been pleased with their spring workouts.
“It’s always fun in the spring to see young kids fill in some of the roles of the ones that graduated,” Roan said. “I think we’ve been progressing, getting better, which is what it’s about. Thankfully, we don’t have to play a game this week.
“But some of the guys who are returning with experience, it looks like they’ve been in it a little bit, and which is good to see. We’ll continue to work on our senior leadership. I think they’re doing a good job. We’ve still got work to do, but I’m excited about the progress we’ve been making.”
Fullen feels the same about his Eagles.
“They’ve done well,” Fullen said about his team. “We kind of adopted the ‘if you’re juiceful you’re useful’ mentality. Really preached hard about playing hard and giving 100 percent, making it cool again, because these days I think a lot of kids think going hard isn’t a cool thing. We want to bring that back, and our guys have really stepped up and done a good job with that.”
Fullen said adding depth and filling spots vacated by graduating seniors has gone well, too.
“We’ve worked through finding depth at different positions and new faces at other positions,” Fullen said. “I feel good about coming out of the spring.”
And, in typical West Texas fashion, football has carried on – regardless of the heat.
“Whatever the weather, it’s near perfect weather,” Fullen said. “That’s all we ever preach. We don’t every say, ‘Oh, gosh, it’s so hot.’ We just say near perfect weather and roll on. Obviously, you adjust your practices as a coaching and training staff, but we don’t say anything to the kids. I haven’t heard one kid say it’s too hot out here.”
Joey D. Richards covers Abilene high schools and colleges, Big Country schools and other local sports. Follow him at Twitter at ARN_Joey. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.